AIPEI — A Taiwanese woman who was allegedly sold into “slavery” as a child returned from the United States to the island Wednesday for a much-anticipated family reunion, officials and media said.
Television images showed the woman, in her 20s and who identified herself as “Isabel”, arriving at the northern Taoyuan airport flanked by a group of Taiwanese government officials — she did not answer questions from reporters.
The foreign ministry, ordered by President Ma Ying-jeou to assist Isabel on the trip, declined to provide her itinerary, but sources said she would stay the night in Taipei before meeting her real mother in eastern Taitung county.
Her “slavery” story came out in November and immediately caught the attention of media after she was interviewed by US cable television network CNN, recounting her unhappy childhood.
Isabel told CNN she was seven when her destitute parents had wanted to sell off her baby sister to a wealthy Taiwanese family, but she had offered to be sold instead.
The woman’s new family, who later moved to the United States and took her with them, subjected her to prison-like conditions she said, describing how her adopted mother once shoved a toilet brush into her mouth and twisted it.
“As other children went to school, Isabel cooked and cleaned,” CNN said in the report, adding that “Isabel” was not her real name.
“Her bedroom was the garage. Her bed, the floor. Food, whatever the family didn’t want.”
Eventually “Isabel” managed to escape from the family’s southern California home, and she now lives in her own apartment, but wishes to be reunited with her Taiwanese mother.
“If I find her, I’ll say, Mom I love you so much,” she told CNN.
The trip has been low-profile, media said, because Isabel is barred from speaking to reporters after reaching a private settlement with the family in the US.